Conservative Ideological Idiocy
By Bernie Horn
February 17, 2009 - 1:04am ET
Today, exactly four weeks after his historic inauguration, President Barack Obama signs a historic bill into law. That law will create or save 3 ½ million American jobs, make a substantial down-payment on repairs to our nation’s ailing infrastructure, put our nation on the path to energy independence, assist millions of lower-income families, and cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans.
Yet, I come not to praise Obama but to bury his opponents. The right wing—congressional Republicans, conservative bloviators, and their greedy benefactors—have made a huge political mistake. They are teetering at the edge of a cliff and the question now is whether we progressives will provide a little shove.
Let’s review the politics. Republicans were soundly beaten in both 2006 and 2008. Adding the two elections together, Republicans lost and Democrats gained 55 seats in the House of Representatives and 14 seats in the Senate (including Al Franken, who will ultimately prevail). At this point, only 31 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the GOP.
Click here to tell Congress: "Thank you! Now keep on investing in clean energy, infrastructure, health care and education."
It’s no secret why Republicans are unpopular: Their policies led to domestic and foreign disasters. They turned a $200 billion budget surplus into a $1 trillion deficit. They caused the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. They started the stupidest, most unnecessary war in American history.
And now, when our nation desperately needs strong measures to prevent a recession from sliding into depression, what do they do? They almost unanimously vote against jobs, against rebuilding America, and against the biggest middle-class tax cut in American history. In the process, they voted to replace the whole Obama economic recovery plan with tax breaks for the rich.
Here’s where the real idiocy comes in—they seem to believe that their obstruction tactics, their adherence to Bush policies, and their lies about details of the Obama bill are making them more popular! But just read the polls. Only 19 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Republicans in Congress, down from 24 percent at the beginning of the year. In contrast, 68 percent of Americans give a favorable rating to President Obama.
On a fundamental level, conservative leaders don’t understand America. They love Sarah Palin, so they think everybody does. They love to make fun of Speaker Pelosi, so they assume everyone laughs along with them. They are sure that “government is the problem,” so they believe everybody else agrees. It’s like someone who loves anchovies assuming that everybody does, because they taste so good!
As a result, the right wingers decided to pursue a strategy that appeals exclusively to their base and abandons independents and other swing voters. This could cripple the ability of conservatives to appeal to mainstream voters in 2010—if only those voters know what has happened.
Progressives need to go on the offensive.
When we talk about politics, we need to emphasize that the conservatives are fighting to continue the same policies that led America to disaster. For example, during the debate over economic recovery the conservatives had the chance to offer substitute amendments in both the House and Senate. Nearly every Republican in Congress voted for one of these amendments which would have entirely deleted the Obama plan and substituted tax cuts for the rich. (For more about those amendments, click here and here.)
That’s the key. Don’t just defend our side’s policies, attack theirs.
The writer is a Senior Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future and author of the recent book, Framing the Future: How Progressive Values Can Win Elections and Influence People.
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future